The mentor's team is exploring the role of epigenetics in conveying nutritional status information to the cellular networks involved in the hypothalamic control of reproductive development. Energy balance can be permanently affected by nutritional challenges taking place during a critical period of “developmental programming” that in humans occurs during late gestation and in rodents, during early post-natal life. These alterations affect female neuroendocrine reproductive development; increased nutritional availability advances the timing of puberty, and nutritional deficiency delays it. Notwithstanding these observations, neither the molecules linking nutritional programming to pubertal development nor the puberty-related genes they may regulate have been identified. By discovering a novel epigenetic mechanism controlling the timing of puberty and identifying its basic components, we have now unveiled the existence of a regulatory system that may not only fulfill the long-sought out role of linking nutrition to neuroendocrine reproductive development, but is also amenable to experimental scrutiny. This project tests the hypothesis that changes in nutrient availability during early postnatal life, which alters the developmental programming of energy balance, affects the timing of female puberty by modifying an epigenetic mechanism of transcriptional repression controlling GnRH secretion. The selected intern will design algorithms and scripts for genomic data analysis and visualization as well as 3D rendering of genomic/epigenomic information using R.
For more information, see the following publications:
Females, minorities, students from low-income households, first-generation college-bound students and students with a primary language other than English are encouraged to apply.